You are perfect in love and in all your plans and purposes
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ― Jeremiah 2:11
You don’t have to be in Christian circles for long before you hear first quoted or given to someone as a form of encouragement or promise. This verse, however, is a great example of the dangers of picking out a single verse from Scripture and then using it to teach something that it really isn’t intended to teach. Jeremiah 29:11, for example, is being written to the nation of Israel (not to any individual) during a specific period in history (not specifically to our contemporary situation). So, to begin with we need to realize that this verse was not written specifically to you or to me as a promise of success and prosperity. We might wish this was the case, but it is not. Not at all.
When we read the verses prior to verse 11, we see something even more disturbing. First, these words were written to the survivors of Israel’s exile to Babylon, meaning that many had been “harmed” and would never experience prosperity of any kind. Second, Jeremiah informs people that these promises will be fulfilled after seventy years in exile. So, God has a plan for Israel as a people, and it will come to fruition after seventy years of difficulty!
In other words, God has a plan for Israel…and it will come to be…but in the meantime some individuals will suffer harm, some will experience difficulties, and some will never experience any sort of prosperity.
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. ― Psalm 33:11
In the same way we await the return of Christ. In the waiting there is a great promise of salvation, renewal, and restoration of all creation. The promise of God is Jeremiah 29:11 can be applied to the church—God does have a plan and a purpose for God’s church. Much like the promise of God to Israel, however, as we wait some will endure difficult times filled with anything but prosperity and the absence of harm. At various times and places believers will suffer persecution of all sorts. Some individuals will suffer while others prosper. Jesus confirmed that this would be the case:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ― John 16:33
And that is why Jesus, time and time again, commands us to love one another, to carry each other’s burdens, to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn, and so much more. Life happens…and when it does we need each other. We were never meant to walk alone.